Gathering material for my postings on steak tartare and tartar sauce led me to another foodstuff, tarator, that sounds like it has a connection to those two and the Tatars — but I’ve found no reliable etymology for the word. There are many types of tarator, ranging from soups through salads and side dishes to dips and spreads (depending on how much liquid is used in its preparation), but (almost) all with yoghurt and cucumber as the main ingredients, and the stuff has a variety of names in different languages.

From Wikipedia:

Tarator, Tarathor or Taratur … is a traditional Balkan dish. It is a cold soup (or a liquid salad), popular in the summertime in Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, southeastern Serbia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and in Cyprus (where it is known as Ttalattouri). It is made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic, walnut, dill, vegetable oil, and water, and is served chilled or even with ice. Local variations may replace yogurt with water and vinegar, omit nuts or dill, or add bread. The cucumbers may on rare occasions be replaced with lettuce or carrots.

In Bulgaria, tarator is a popular meze (appetizer) but also served as a side dish along with Shopska salad with most meals… A salad version of tarator is known as “Snowwhite salad” …, also called Dry Tarator.

… In Greece, a similar meal is known as tzatziki. Tzatziki usually contains olive oil, parsley and mint in addition to the ingredients listed above. [on tzatziki, see “Benedictine and its kin”]

… Tarator is a popular salad and dip in Serbia rather than a soup; it is also known as “tarator salata”. It is made with yogurt, sliced cucumber and diced garlic, and served cold.

In Turkish cuisine, “tarator” is a dip sauce generally eaten with fried fish and squid.

So tarator is a cousin to the South Asian cucumber raita. From Wikipedia:

Raita … is an Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi condiment made with yogurt (dahi) and used as a sauce or dip [or side dish]. The yogurt may be seasoned with coriander, cumin, mint, cayenne pepper, and other herbs and spices.

Cucumber raita is the most common type in the U.S. (so that raita usually refers to cucumber raita), but there are other varieties: tomato and onion, carrot, spinach, fruit, and more.

2 Responses to “tarator”

  1. John Says:

    Turks have a non-yoghurt tarator that’s actually a walnut sauce…


  2. More dipspreads | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] cheese, Liptauer. And pictured, but not written up, in this posting: hummus, tapenade. And in a later posting: tarator, […]

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